Take a moment to think about a brand you’ve been purchasing products from for a few months or years—one where you’re a repeat customer. How many ways do you interact with this brand? You’ve probably visited their website at least a few times, seen ads from them on social media platforms or in the real world, received their emails in your inbox, and used their products on special occasions or in your everyday life.
Each one of these transactions and views, however small and fleeting, is part of your overall customer experience with this brand. And if this brand you’re imagining right now is doing things the right way, each one of these touchpoints will be part of their customer experience design strategy.
CX design is about much more than just creating great products for customers. It’s a holistic approach to exceeding customer expectations and providing them with unexpected delights to drive customer satisfaction and loyalty.
It’s a lot to take in—but that’s why we’ve created this complete guide to CX design. You’ll learn why CX design is a critical part of creating great customer experiences, and how to create the right CX strategy to get you there.
What is CX design?
Customer experience (CX) design is the process design teams follow to optimize customer experiences. These experiences can be touchpoints before, during, or after the sale is made and the customer is converted. CX design uses customer-centric strategies to delight customers at every stage of the customer journey, nurturing a strong and trusting relationship between your company and your customers.
It means taking a thoughtful approach to every aspect of the customer experience, ensuring each piece works as part of a larger whole. Some of these pieces include brand identity, customer enablement, building relationships and trust with customers, and leaving customers feeling great after every interaction.
You build a great CX design process by regularly making an effort to check in with your customers to find out how your brand is performing, for instance by collecting customer feedback in surveys and focus groups. Your CX design process should be completely customer-centric at all stages to succeed.
CX vs. UX
CX design is quite often confused with user experience (UX) design, but they’re two separate though related concepts.
UX is concerned with the experience of the end users of a product only—it’s still very focused on the experience of customers, but in a much narrower way.
CX is a broad and holistic concept that includes UX for all products, but goes beyond just products to focus on all other customer touchpoints as well.
Check out our CX vs. UX guide for a more in-depth view of the difference between the two.
Key components of CX design
The essential elements of CX design are all about building strong bridges from your customers to your brand. The days when you could simply put out a great product, run a basic ad, and sell thousands of it are gone. Today customers have more options than ever, and switching from your brand to another is simple.
The elements of CX design help create strong customer loyalty so your buyers stick with your business even when other options tempt them. And that loyalty comes from creating a great customer experience.
Consistent brand identity
With so many other businesses out there on the market in a world saturated with advertising, it’s harder than ever to get your potential customers to remember your brand quickly. That’s why creating a consistent brand identity is so crucial. It means that as customers go through the customer journey touchpoints with your business, every step looks and feels on-brand and consistent.
And it needs to be more than just consistent—your brand identity also needs to be unique to your business. If you look just like every other competitor out there on the market, even your current customers may struggle to remember you months or years down the line. Creating a unique brand identity will help you build strong recall and stand out from the crowd.
Building relationships and trust
At its heart, CX design is all about building relationships with customers. Consumers these days want more than a simple transactional experience from brands, where they hand you money and you give them a product in exchange. People expect to feel a connection to the companies they purchase from, whether that’s shared values or a clear aesthetic sense or a feeling that your marketing is speaking directly to them.
Consumers also need to feel a sense of trust these days in order to hand over their wallets. With the growth of legitimate companies has also come a rise in fraudulent ones offering low-quality or defective products, and so consumers are rightfully wary. Before they hand over their credit card info, they want to be sure they can trust your brand. Your CX design helps build this trust in every step of the way, giving consumers the confidence they need to become customers.
Provide great products
While it’s not enough these days to only provide a great product, that doesn’t mean it’s not still an important part of the customer experience—it’s just no longer the whole experience. If you develop a delightful and distinctive brand identity, build strong relationships with customers, and then sell them a shoddy product—they’re not going to be happy, or loyal either.
Providing excellent products that hold up to your promises helps build that level of trust that’s so critical to designing a great customer experience. This is where UX is so important in the customer journey. It helps ensure that the people who actually use your products every day find them to be useful, high-quality, and up to the tasks they need to perform.
Enable customers to act
Another change in recent decades about how consumers buy is that they don’t have much patience for waiting around for your company to let them act. For example, software companies used to make potential buyers sit through multiple rep calls and even plunk down a credit card before getting a glimpse at the software for themselves. But that’s not how buyers expect—or want—to buy anymore.
Instead, consumers want to try things and take action for themselves before they ever talk to a salesperson—if they talk to one at all. Your CX design should take into account any friction that’s currently in your buying process, and any hoops you’re making customers jump through that could be eliminated. Allow customers to take action in the ways they want, and they will be happier.
Create a feel-good experience
At the end of a transaction or interaction with your company, how do your customers tend to feel? Exhausted from struggling through, or delighted with themselves and the experience they just had? Of course, you want them to feel great after they interact with your business—this is what creating great customer experiences is all about. And it goes beyond creating an experience that’s merely satisfactory, like a pure exchange of money for goods.
CX design should build in ways to provide little extras that go beyond to delight customers, like those little prizes in a Cracker Jax box. No one needs those little trinkets, but they’re a way to provide something unexpected that makes customers feel great. That’s how you create loyal customers who are also powerful brand advocates. And it makes your customers feel truly valued, which is another key element of a successful customer experience.
Great customer experiences don’t just happen out of nowhere. They come from putting significant thought into the CX design process, and continually adjusting your CX to adapt to evolving customer needs. This is where a CX strategy is essential.
A CX design strategy helps your business improve your customer experience by creating a thoughtful overall strategy behind the design process. You can’t just start by working to improve the experiences themselves, or you may end up with a hodgepodge of different touchpoints that don’t really work as a whole.
A CX strategy, on the other hand, provides a framework for how to make your customers feel engaged and valued. While not even the best CX strategy can control how customers will feel about and perceive your brand—that’s really out of your hands—a great strategy can give you a way to anticipate their desires, needs, and pain points so your CX design speaks to all of those.
Creating a target audience
Now that you know the theory behind CX design, you probably want to know how to design a great customer experience of your own. It begins by thinking strategically about the target customers you want to attract to your business. Your target audience should never be as vague as “anyone who will give us money”—you want to narrow your intended audience down significantly.
Why is finding and focusing on your target audience so important? Because not everyone is going to have a great experience with your product. You want to focus your attention on the people who are the best fit for the user experience you’re offering—and then you can focus on creating a great customer experience specifically for them.
Your potential and current customers aren’t just large groups of people with money to spend. They have real differences, real pain points, and real desires that your product can help fill. Creating a target audience that acknowledges and understands all of those points will help you decide what is most important to that audience in your customer journey.
Create this target audience by doing some deep user research. Who are your existing customers, and why are they currently using your product? What drew them to your company - was it your values, your brand identity, your products or something else? What are the pain points they’re hoping your product can solve for them, or what desires are they looking to fulfill with it? Then look at who is most satisfied by your current products and experience, and see what conclusions you can draw from this research (don’t worry, we’ll talk more below about how to collect feedback like this).
Creating a customer journey map
The next step in your CX design process is creating a customer journey map, which is a visual representation of the complete customer journey. It tells the story of the experiences customers have with your brand across every customer touchpoint, from their first experience with you through the buying process and beyond. Your customers probably interact with you in a huge variety of ways (possibly many more than you thought at first), and mapping these touchpoints out means no customer interaction gets left behind.
Mapping out your customer journey begins with thinking about and getting feedback from your customers. Many companies fall into the common trap of mapping a company-centric journey, but that’s not what these journey maps are about. They should all be from the point of view of the customer, specifically your target audience, in order to be actually effective.
You should also establish clear objectives for your map before you begin, like which part of the experience or customer persona you want to focus on for this map. Next, list out all the stages of your customer journey, and then plot your touchpoints. During all this mapping, you should also keep in mind your target audience’s goals as well. And finally, validate your map by walking in it yourself or asking for feedback from customers. Get a complete guide to customer journey mapping plus templates from GetFeedback.
Connecting with your customers
Your customer journey should consist of much more than simple transactional touchpoints. Customers want to connect with your brand and build a relationship, not merely to hand you money from time to time. That’s why building in ways to connect with customers is essential to creating a great customer experience.
One of the best ways to do this is through social media. Your brand can post engaging content that connects with your target audience, and solicit and respond to their comments and even share their content. This helps customers feel they have a real relationship with your brand.
You can also connect with your customers by asking for, and then acting on, their feedback (more details on how to do that below). Asking your customers what they think and then using that to improve their experience helps them feel heard and valued. And that builds a stronger, trusting relationship over time. Plus, it gives you insights you might not get otherwise into the customer experience.
Collecting feedback from customers
You can’t complete your CX design process and strategy without connecting with your customers and getting their feedback. In fact, you probably shouldn’t even start without gathering at least some feedback to validate your assumptions. You might think that you have a really strong grasp on what your customers want and how you’re meeting their expectations—but you could very well be wrong.
There are many ways to collect feedback from your customers to validate your journey map and gauge how much improvement is needed in your current customer experience. But one of the easiest and most effective ways to collect feedback is through survey tools like GetFeedback.
You can set up surveys that measure key customer experience metrics such as Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), and more, or you can create custom surveys to ask the questions you need to answer.
The key is creating a thoughtful Voice of the Customer (VOC) program so that you are regularly gathering customer feedback about CX. Otherwise, you won’t really know where you stand—and you might be wasting lots of time and money focusing on the wrong pain points in the customer experience.
You will also need to use a survey tool that gives you sophisticated analytics and the ability to track your metrics over time so you can note any progress or continued room for improvement. CX design isn’t a one-time project, and neither is gathering feedback from your customers. It’s ongoing so you can identify trends, celebrate your wins, and catch small issues before they become larger problems.
Consumers these days have more choices than ever about which companies they choose to purchase from—another option is just one quick Google search away. That’s why creating an excellent customer experience through smart CX design is the best way to stand out from the competition and retain highly loyal customers for years to come.
CX design helps you create customer experiences that delight your customers and create a strong, trusting relationship with them that lasts. If you’re looking for more resources about creating your own strong CX design program, GetFeedback has plenty of free options so you can learn about every aspect of CX. And if you’re looking for how to improve your customer design through the power of Salesforce, we’ve got your guide right here.